God Hears and Responds

Why does God allow bad things to happen? Habakkuk discusses the doubt and pain we feel when things go horribly wrong. But it ultimately explains why God allows us to experience pain and suffering.

Topics: Prayer Scripture: Habakkuk 1:5

Transcript | Audio

Transcript

Last week, we started Habakkuk, and I did forty minutes on explaining in why we would to Habakkuk. So just to give you the quickest overview imaginable, Habakkuk doesn’t like the way God’s running things. That’s the bottom line. And he let’s God know about it. He literally says, “What in the world are you doing, God?” So today I want to read you another portion of Habakkuk, and instead of breaking down that section, I simply want us to look at simple truths. So let’s look at Habakkuk 1, starting in verse 5. “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.”

Years ago, I did Super Summer for the Baptists. It’s a large youth camp that they do all over the state. Their theme verse for the summer was, “For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” It was on their t-shirts. Now the problem with that is in the context of the verse. Because the rest of what we’re going to read today is about how God’s going to use this wicked nation to judge Judah and destroy them. That’s just an odd t-shirt verse. “I’m going to

do something that will inspire awe in your heart. I’m going to kill all of you.” We should put that on a t-shirt and give it to teenagers. That’s why, when it comes to the Bible, context is everything. It’s why David Koresh could take it and convince people he’s Jesus despite the fact that he wore giant glasses. The perfect Son of God. . .with 20/50 vision.

Let’s keep reading. “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans [Babylonians], that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour. They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand. At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!”

Next week, we’re going to talk about the justice of God out of this text, but I want us to look at a simple truth made evident in this text. You and I, probably because of sinful nature, have this innate response to break things down
into high tiers and low tiers. It’s true even in spirituality. Whether we want to admit it or not, we go, “These are varsity Christians and we’re like freshmen c-team.” When you do that, all the truth in the Bible gets disrupted. I’ll give you an example. There was an episode of The Simpsons where Homer Simpson is reading the Bible. He comes to the end
of the Bible and says, “All these people are a mess. . .except this one guy.” And so for you and me, simple truths are wasted on us because it’s hard for us to imagine, despite the fact that you have a book on your lap that teaches you this exact lesson over and over again, that God meets everyday people in everyday circumstances and does extraordinary things. Because a simple truth here that would be easy to blow by is that God heard Habakkuk and answered him. God heard him. If we just think about the D/FW area, it has 1.6 million people. Now that’s a lot of different scenarios, that’s a lot of different things happening. If you picked up the paper this morning, you’ll see that some people are celebrating and some people are in deep, deep mourning right now. And the thing we see happening in Habakkuk is God hearing Habakkuk, who by the way isn’t going, “God, I love You and I trust You, but I’ve got a quick question for You.” Habakkuk goes, “I don’t like how You’re running things. And why won’t You listen to me?” The book doesn’t really set up that Habakkuk’s a guy you’d want in the foxhole with you. But God hears him and responds. And this is that simple truth that, because we’re church people, misses for us. We don’t hear and get the depth of that. So I’m going to unpack this rhythm

that gets established in the Bible, because I think some of you right now are going, “Of course God answers Habakkuk. He’s Habakkuk. He’s got a book in the Bible named after him. God’s going to talk to him. My name is Bill. There’s not a book called Bill in the Bible. I don’t even sound like a guy God would talk to.” So I want to establish this pattern in the Bible.

God comes to Abram and says, “I’m going to make a great nation out of you. You’re going to have a son, and through that son, I’m going to redeem all that went wrong in the fall.” Abram says, “That’s impossible, God. I’m 75 and my wife
is older.” I love that. He’s just a brilliant man. At 75, he’s very seasoned and never says how old Sarah is. He just always goes, “I’m 75, and she’s older than I am. . .a bit.” So he’s very politically correct in his maneuvering. Now fifteen years later, there’s no boy, there’s no son, there’s no heir. So Sarah gives Abram the most awkward birthday present ever, Hagar. “It’s obvious that I can’t get pregnant with your son, so here’s Hagar. I bought you a slave girl. Happy birthday. Maybe you can get her pregnant. Maybe God will work like this.” That’s just an awkward birthday, isn’t it? “Thank you? Is this a test?” Now as the story unfolds, Hagar does get pregnant and does give birth to Ishmael. Now twenty-five years after the promise is levied, Sarah gets pregnant and gives birth to Isaac. So you’ve got Isaac and Ishmael. Those two are going to separate and it’s going to be a bloody, contentious mess to this day. But when Sarah gives birth to Isaac, she has this deep disdain for Hagar and Ishmael. So she goes to Abraham and demands that Abraham kick them out. Now to understand the weight of this, you’ve got to get your head out of 2011. Because to be kicked out in this point of time is to be then ousted from a family and be homeless at a level that’s hard for you and me to comprehend. So it’s basically a death sentence, and Abraham is deeply grieved. He argues with Sarah but eventually relents. And in this weird twist, he gives Hagar basically a bottle of water and a loaf of bread and sends her and Ishmael out to die.

And that’s where we’re going to pick up the story in Genesis 21:15-17. “When the water in the skin was gone, she put
the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, ”Let me not look on the death of the child.“ And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.” If you have children, when they get hungry, what do they do? They scream. If you get stuck in a car with a hungry child for too long, you will contemplate crashing the car and killing everyone. So Hagar’s son is starving to death, they’re out of water in a wasteland and she puts him under a bush and goes a couple hundred yards away to try to get away from that incessant screaming and her reasoning is, “It is not good for me to look upon the death of my son.” So he’s screaming, she’s screaming out to God in the middle of nowhere, and the next verse is pretty spectacular. “And

God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ”What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.“” And he goes on to promise there will be twelve princes under Ishmael and he will also become a great nation. So you’ve got this moment in time where you have
the expanse of the world, all of humanity on the world, and God’s aware of a boy crying under a bush in the middle of nowhere. Now be careful because the temptation is to downshift and go, “Well he’s a Bible character.” But the Bible characters are there to show you how God operates in a very real world. That’s why the Bible’s so gritty. Read it. Read Genesis. It reads like a Jerry Springer show. There is about as much dysfunction as you can fathom, and God continues to invade, minister, empower and set free.

If we just stayed Old Testament, in Exodus 2-3, Moses is just watching his sheep. He comes across a bush that is burning but not being consumed. God speaks to him and says, “I have seen the affliction of My people and I have heard their cries.” And Moses becomes a response to the affliction, the tears and the prayers of Israel in captivity in Egypt. This kind of thing gets established. It just keeps happening in the Bible over and over again.

I’ll give you another one. If you think about America’s response to the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor and the loss of a few thousand people, it was to build the largest military machine ever and to begin to attack the Japanese and the Germans on two fronts until they were crushed. After 9/11 occurs, it does not take long to rally around 9/11 and go,

“We’re not going to forget that. How dare they assault on our land. How dare they.” And we invade Afghanistan and later on Iraq, and who knows who’s next. It’s all around this idea of, “We’ve got to take it to them. How dare they do this to
us.” Now I’m not making a political statement; I’m trying to draw your attention to what happens next. In Egypt, Pharaoh lets the people of God go after the firstborn son of every Egyptian dies. What do you think that army in pursuit of Israel is feeling? Where do you think they are? If the firstborn son of all American families dies, do you think there’s anybody who is anti-war in that moment? Do you think anybody’s going, “You know what? We should sanction them.” So what you see in the middle of Exodus is this Egyptian army in pursuit of the people of God who slam into the Red Sea and have nowhere to go. So they cry out to God and yell at Moses, “Have you lead us out here to kill us?” And God hears them and responds. He sends a wind that divides the sea, they walk through to the other side and He drowns out Pharaoh’s army.

I have thirteen other examples, but I’m just going to leave you with this rhythm that God hears and He responds, and it’s not because people are awesome. God is just aware of what’s going on in the lives of people. It’s one of His character attributes. It’s His omnipresence. He is everywhere at once. Now when this hits David in Psalm 8, it blows him away. He goes, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers. . .what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” So David is looking at the stars, he’s thinking about the expanse of the universe (as limited as his understanding would have been at that period of time) and he’s saying, “That You would know me, that You would care for me, that You would listen to me, that You would be aware of me.” It blew his mind. I think this is such a simple truth that, because of our time in church and because we don’t think deeply much, we miss out on this really beautiful reality, that the God of the universe, the creative force that created all things is intimately aware of you. Get out of the ambiguous church “us” and that He’s aware of “us.” No, He’s aware of you, to the point where He knows all the days of your life before you would live one of them (Psalm 139). He knows all of the hairs on your head (Luke 12). He is aware of all of that. And this is a profound truth if we’ll just sit in it.

So maybe you’ll give me that and you’ll go, “I believe that, Chandler. My problem isn’t that. My problem is that God answers ‘no’ so often. I believe He answers prayer, but I just think He says ‘no’ a lot. That’s my issue. He doesn’t answer like I want Him to answer.” Well I want to throw two things at you. I contend that He answers “yes” far more often than you think He does, but there are a couple of reasons I don’t think you see it. The first one is that, probably because of our sinful nature, we are very quick to give credit where credit doesn’t completely belong. I’ve learned that there are two different types of men. There are men who build stuff, and there are men who pay other men to build stuff for them. I fall into that second category. Now if you need deconstruction done, I’m your man. Give me a sledge hammer and get out of the way. But if it requires the math skills and the patience to build it out, I’m just not good at it. Now my father- inlaw shames me constantly in this way. They’ve remodeled their house and he’s done it all by himself. He’ll drops the tile, he breaks down the wall, he puts up the beams. He’s just a man’s man, and it shames me constantly. That’s kind

of the relationship I have with my father-in-law. Now here’s what doesn’t happen. I’ve never walked into the bathroom he remodeled and gone, “Man, can I see your trowel? That thing is legit. The trowel did this? That’s crazy.” Or I’ve never walked out onto his arbor and said, “Man, that hammer you have, where did you get it? That hammer must be awesome. Can I borrow that hammer?” That’s just not how it works. Who gets the praise? The one who uses the tool. So more often than not, we’ll ask God to do things, God does things through appointed means, through skilled tools and instead of giving Him the credit, we don’t give Him the credit and we give the credit to others. So He answers “yes,” but we don’t see it as a “yes.” We think we’re lucky despite the fact that luck is for pagans.

I’ll unpack it in my scenario, because I think it’s easy to see it in that scenario. There are two men that Lauren and I know of who were diagnosed after me with almost exactly what I have and who are no longer with us. They’re home in glory, six thousand feet tall, galaxies for hair, seeing Jesus face to face. I’m here with you. So in the end, feel about it whatever you want, but they won. But here’s my point. Both men had resections, both had gamma radiation, both were on Temodar and both are dead. But I’m here. I’m preaching to you, I’m working a normal schedule and I’m back in the gym

trying to pound it. I am back to what I was doing before, with scans that keep coming back clean. Now they continue to remind me that there’s an 85% recurrence rate and this is never going to be over for me. But as of now, there’s no trace of cancer in my brain. And let me just say, praise God for Dr. Barnett. He is a brilliant neurosurgeon. Praise God for him. Praise God for the science of harnessing gamma knife radiation where they don’t just fry your brain but can pinpoint it. Praise God for Temodar and the discovery of Temoar that breaks the blood-brain barrier and attacks those cells. Praise God for all of it, but ultimately, they were tools in the hands of God to bring about the will of God in my life. They are not to be praised, but rather the God who gave them to us is to be praised. You don’t praise the tool; you praise the giver of the tools. The theological term is “common grace.” So MRI machines are a common grace. They are a grace given to all mankind by a merciful God, despite the fact that man does not deserve the MRI machine. Praise God for them, but in the end they’re tools. I don’t praise the tools; I praise the giver of the tools who used them as He saw fit.

Let me give you one more example. I just got rebuked by one of our elders. He probably wouldn’t even see it that way, but that’s what the Lord did with it. We had a woman come and see us who had a four-year-old son with a tumor on his knee that they were going to surgically remove. She wanted us just to pray for him. So she brought him into the elders’ meeting, we gathered around, laid hands on Him and asked God to heal him in accordance to James 5. And I don’t know what you believe about this stuff or where you are in that, but we just felt the presence of God in that room. And there was this agreement among us that God was there and God was doing something, and we felt fairly confident that this was going to end well. So he goes in the next day, has the surgery and the biopsy comes back initially as malignant bone cancer. I don’t know what you know about cancer, but you don’t beat bone cancer often. It is an aggressive, mean form of cancer. So we get the diagnosis of malignant bone cancer, although they have sent off the tissue for a couple more biopsies. The second biopsy comes in and says it’s benign. And the final word is that it’s not a tumor at all, but

it was a weird growth from a fractured leg he had early in life. Do you know what my first thought was? “Idiot doctors!” That was literally my first thought. I wanted to physically harm whatever doctor thinks it’s the wise thing to do to tell a young mother that their four-year-old boy has a devastating form of malignant cancer before you know for sure what the diagnosis is. So at a party I was attending, I’m sitting across from a couple of guys and I said, “What kind of idiot does that? Shouldn’t you know before you say this is what they have?” And Brian Miller, who has been chairman of our elders for years now, just lovingly said to me, “Matt, He answered our prayers.” So here I am bothered at a doctor, and Brian’s like, “You kind of missed it there, Matt. He answered our prayers.” Now, maybe it was bone cancer that God just miraculously handled, but regardless, God heard us and He answered us.“ So I think one of the reasons we don’t think that God says ”yes“ is because we’re very quick to ascribe praise to the common graces in our lives rather than how God works through those common graces. That’s the first thing I would contend.

The second thing is we don’t keep track of what we actually ask Him. So we don’t see how many times He tells us ”yes.“ So we end up being like children who get a ton of stuff for Christmas, but because they didn’t get their pony, they pout. If you’ve ever been in that scenario with your kids, you’re tempted to take a stocking to one of them. Here they are, you’ve just blessed them, they’ve opened up a bunch of presents and they’re mad because they didn’t get the Nerf gun that fired off 7,000 shots a second. ”My friend got this, but I only got this.“ ”You only got that one? We we can only take it back to the store.“ So that’s what we end up being like because we don’t keep track of the reality that God says ”yes“ to us a billion times and we just didn’t think through, ”Hey, that’s an answer to prayer.“ We’re slow to acknowledge that.

And I don’t even have time to unpack the reality that God’s mercy to you even in this day for things you have not even thought about praying for. There’s a man in a family in our church right now who part of his brain just stopped working. He wasn’t in an accident or anything like that. Part of his brain just stopped working. It has led to all sorts of issues, disorders and problems. No one in this room and said, ”Father, I’d like for my left parietal lobe to fire off like it’s supposed to today. I’d like to be able to move the right side of my body.“ No one did that. That’s just mercy to you. The Bible tells us that rebellion against God is the forfeiting of life. So the fact that you’re breathing is God’s mercy. One

of the things I’ve learned as I go to the gym now to work out is I become aware of how fleeting strength can be. I was probably at the strongest I’ve been in my life before the seizure, and it took two weeks to drop fifteen pounds and my ability to stand by myself. Do you know what I did? I woke up and got a cup of coffee. That’s what happened to me. So I’ve got this gratitude in me that I’m functioning, I’m moving, I’m able to do these things, and I’ve found myself thanking God that I can do squats. So I think those are the reasons why we think He says ”no“ so often.

Now let me tell you some reasons why He does say ”no“ sometimes. Sometimes you get told ”no“ because of your lack of obedience. Let me show you what I mean. Matthew 7:7-11 says, ”Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.“ Everybody who spent some time in church knows that verse. It’s the next part of the text though that ties that part into the greater meaning. ”Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!“ Do you see what He’s setting up. ”If you give your children good things and you’re evil, how much better will I be than you! My patience is unlimited, My holiness is unlimited and My kindness is unlimited. How much better of a Father will I be than you!“ And He ties this idea of Him being a good father to the idea of asking, seeking and knocking and having Him hear us and respond.

Now let me read you John 15:7. ”If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.“ So then He moves on in John and says, ”If My words abide in you, if you hear Me and you obey Me, ask whatever you wish and it will be granted to you.“ Now how many of you have seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Do
you remember Veruca Salt? ”I want a goose that lays golden eggs!“ Her dad hated her. He hated her, and he resented her and he showed that to her by constantly giving her whatever she wanted. Because loving fathers never reward waywardness. Loving parents never reward rebellion. And Veruca Salt’s daddy hated her, and we all got to watch it.

On Tuesday, Lauren dropped Reid, my five-year-old, off at school. So she drops him off and just watches him go in the door. As he gets to the door, there’s a mother and daughter behind who are carrying a bunch of stuff. So Lauren saw Reid open the door and hold the door to let the woman and her daughter go by since their hands were full. So Lauren is beaming that Reid had done this. So when I came home, she was like, ”You’re not going to believe this. Reid held the door open for this lady whose hands were full. He’s just such a little gentleman.“ So when he came home from school that day, we were just generous. ”Can I have a snack?“ ”Yes you can. What would you like?“ Now several days later on Friday morning, I wake up and I’m walking down our hallway down to the kitchen when my wife stops me in the hallway and goes, ”You need to prepare your heart for what’s in the kitchen. I’ve already told your son that you’re going to spank him. Just prepare your heart.“ So I’ve got this little prayer with the Lord, ”Okay, I have no idea what’s in there.

I want to be gracious, I want to be loving and I want to train my son in the way he should go. I don’t know what awaits me. Help me be gracious.“ So I walk into our kitchen that we had just remodeled and he had ripped the pantry door off of the pantry. Now let me tell you how it happened. It happens because my son thinks it’s fun to swing on the door. He has been told anywhere between five hundred and five hundred thousand times not to swing on the door. So I walk in and he’s standing there. I’m like, ”What happened, buddy?“ And he was like, ”I just shut it too hard.“ Like he’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. So I just got down on my knees, pulled him close and was like, ”Listen, you’re going to get a spanking. You know it, I know it. Mom’s already dropped it. How many is now in flux. How did this happen? Were you swinging on the door?“ Now how generous do you think we were that day? ”Can I have a snack.“ ”Here’s some celery.“ ”Can I have a little bit of peanut butter?“ ”Well you sure can, because the pantry door is now gone. Just reach right in there and grab it.“ So what happens? Where there is abiding, where there is obedience, there’s graciousness and blessing. Where there is rebellion, God is not apt to say ”yes“ a lot.

Let me give you a couple more. ”Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.“ So let me just be brazen with you. If you are bitter, unforgiving, angry, resentful, jealous or proud, you should not expect to hear ”yes“ a lot from the Lord. Let me give you one more, and then I’ll give you some clarifying statements. ”Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel. . .“ Just
so you ladies don’t get upset about that, ”weaker vessel“ literally translates porcelain. So if I could pull this into 2011, ”Don’t treat your wife like one of the boys. Live considerately with your wife and treat he like porcelain.“ But listen to what he says next. ”. . .since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.“ If you’re inconsiderate and you wrong your wife, you’ll hinder your prayers. If you step out of obedience, you’re going to hinder your prayers. And then four verses later, he says this, ”For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.“ Are you putting these things together? He says, ”Be obedient in how I’ve charged you to walk with, love and encourage your wife and don’t rebel against that or My face will be against you.“ He’s saying, ”My face is towards, My ears are towards the righteous. My ear is attentive to their cries, but my face is against the wicked, those who would rebel against Me.“

Now there are two things I am not saying here. I’m not saying that you have to be perfect for God to hear your prayers. Even Jesus, when He’s teaching the disciples to pray, says, ”And forgive us our trespasses (or sins) as we forgive those who trespass against us.“ Jesus is acknowledging, ”You’re going to fall short.“ So you don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be pursuing. John 9:31 does a great job at this. ”We know that God does not listen to sinners. . .“ Is anyone in here a sinner? All of us. So the Bible just gave us really bad news. ”We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.“ So we know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God, a pursuer of God, He hears him. So we’re not perfect; we’re just pursuing. And the Bible says, ”In that place, God hears.“ So I’m not saying you have to be perfect for God to hear your prayers. If that were the case, no one would be heard. But because of the cross and because of the grace of God, we are actually told in the Scriptures to boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence. We are to pray with confidence, pursue with confidence and chase with confidence. So I am not saying that you have to be perfect.

Here’s the second thing I’m not saying. I’m not saying that your obedience to God makes you Aladdin and God the
genie in the lamp. Everybody is comfortable with the statement, ”God is in control.“ You’ll find it on coffee cups, you’ll find it on bumper stickers. The theological term is ”God is sovereign.“ God’s sovereignty is a warm blanket to anyone’s soul, regardless of circumstance. Because here’s all it means. God knows well beyond what we can know, He sees well beyond what we can see and He understands things that we, on our best day, can barely see as a shadow. And through His goodness and through His sovereignty, He governs. So sometimes you’re going to get told ”no“ because what’s most glorious to God and what’s best for you is for you to hear ”no.“ Even Garth Brooks saw that one coming. ”Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.“ In the song, he goes to some football game and sees some girl that he wanted to marry, and he’s like, ”Eww!“ And he’s grateful that he didn’t. When all is said and done, even a secular guy is saying, ”We shouldn’t always get what we want in that moment.“ And there are things that seem like a must today that we learn years later are not what we needed at all. But in that moment, we wanted it so bad that we felt betrayed when we didn’t get it. And yet years later, we’ll look back and go, ”Man, thank God that didn’t happen.“

So He hears us and He answers. Those are profound simple truths that if you get it, it changes how you interact with God and it changes how you see life. After this service last weekend, I literally walked off the stage, out the side door back there, got into the car with my wife and headed out to Longview. My wife’s grandfather died last week. It’s how you want to die, at the age of 88, strong life, deeply loved the Lord and found out he had cancer a month ago. He was surrounded by loved ones when he died. So we drove through the storm into Longview and got there for the viewing. Now my wife

is from Longview; I went there to get married. As I walked into the viewing, this little old lady in her early eighties grabs me by the hand, pulls me aside and says, ”I’m so happy to be seeing you. You look so good. Your hair looks great. It’s great to hear about your latest scan. I want you to know that last year when you were in surgery, my entire Sunday school class met at my house and we didn’t stop praying until we heard you were out.“ My surgery was seven hours long. She said, ”To this day, we keep up with you, Matt.“ Do you know how we post information about me? On the Web. ”We keep up. We watch your updates. We know when you’re going into a round of chemo, and we gather again and pray. Just know, Matt, that there’s a group of old ladies in east Texas warring for you.“ So I was all tearing up and people were probably, ”He didn’t even know granddaddy that well.“ I really believe that I’m here, I’m teaching and I’m with you because God seemed to drum that out all over the world. I was in London and heard similar things. We were in Australia and heard similar things. We went to Africa and heard similar things. For whatever reason, God just banged on the hearts of people and they interceded on my behalf, and they continue to. People can say what they want, but I’m telling you that I’m here because God heard the prayers of the saints who seemed to be unrelenting for me. So He hears, and He responds.

Since that’s true, what do you need to say? I know for some of you, this will be awkward because it’s been a long time since you’ve prayed. I think one of the disturbing things about our faith in the West is that it’s unbelievably linear and non-spiritual. One of the things that dissolves pretty quickly when you travel is that you’ll see in a lot of places that it’s spiritual first and linear second. Which means people in harder parts of the world are much better prayers than they are studiers. And here, we tend to have a lot more cognitive understanding and a lot less passion in our pursuit and prayer and spirituality. So He can hear you. What do you want to say? Let’s throw acronyms and everything else out the window. What do you need? What do you want? What do you want Him to do in you? In others? Maybe you’re struggling to believe. Listen, the disciples struggled to believe. In fact, Peter had to tell Him, ”Help my unbelief.“ Maybe that’s your prayer this morning. Maybe you’re sick. Maybe somebody you love is sick. Maybe your kids are crazy. Maybe the relationship you’re in is dysfunctional. Maybe you’re great and you love the Lord deeply. Understand that that also is a gift and that also is God’s grace. So maybe you just want to thank Him.

Let’s pray. ”Father, for a thousand mercies that we didn’t even know to ask, for the fact that You know and that Hebrews says You’re sympathetic, that You know exactly how we come in here, exactly where we are, exactly where our shortcomings are, exactly where our pride is, where our struggles are, where our fear is, where our unforgiveness is,
and yet You hear and You respond. So I pray that that simple truth would just haunt us a bit, that we would have a deep understanding that there’s no such thing as privacy, there’s no such thing as privacy and there’s no such thing as secrets. You know what we think and what the desires of our hearts really are. So my prayer is that You wold build up faith in us and build up prayer in us, that we would know and rest in the fact that You would hear us and that You respond. It’s for Your beautiful name. Amen.“

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